Obama Administration Defends the Use of Race in University Admissions Decisions

The Obama administration has filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by two white students against the University of Texas. The students were denied admission and are claiming racial discrimination. The plaintiffs lost the case at the district court level and the case is now before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The students argue that the University of Texas did not exhaust all race-neutral methods to increase student diversity, as stipulated by the 2003 Supreme Court Grutter decision, before resorting to a race-sensitive admissions formula. But the district court ruled that the University of Texas affirmative action plan was “narrowly tailored” and met the guidelines set down in Grutter.

The case may eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the 5-4 decision in Grutter, the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor and the appointment of Samuel Alito leave the court with a more conservative bent on affirmative action issues. This case, Fisher v. University of Texas, could give the Supreme Court the opportunity to place further restrictions on the use of race in college admissions.